Monday, March 30, 2015

UNH Defeated Three Final Four Teams This Season

This is how UNH Alternate Captain Casey Thrush summed up the 2014-15 UNH Hockey season following their battle with Boston University in the Hockey East Semifinals:
“At least it ended here. We had a very tough stretch, I’m very proud of the way our team stuck together and really proved a lot of people wrong. The way we played (Friday) and our streak, I think you can say we’re competitive with anyone in the country.”
Competitive indeed. In fact, over the course of the season, UNH played three of the teams that advanced to the Frozen Four - Boston University, Providence, and the University of Nebraska-Omaha (UNO) - and beat each of them at least once.

Over the first half of the season, the hockey program faced challenges such as the unexpected loss of their veteran goaltender Casey DeSmith in August and the infusion of 11 freshmen - 5 forwards, 4 defensemen, and 2 goalies - into the lineup. By the end of January, UNH had lost 15 games, won 9, and tied 2. They were hovering near the bottom of the Hockey East standings.

Then, in a dramatic turnaround, UNH won 6 of its last 7 regular season games, earned home ice in the opening round of the Hockey East playoffs, swept UConn, and eliminated Providence College in the quarterfinals. Although the Wildcats lost to Boston University, the #3 team in the nation at the time, in the Hockey East Semifinals 4-1, the game was tightly contested well into the final period. As Captain Matt Willows said after the game:
“I think we played pretty much a full 60 (minutes). They’re a great team. We knew it was going to be a battle. I don’t think the score was indicative of the game. We played well. We had our chances. We just didn’t bury them."

Games Against Frozen Four Teams

Looking back over the 2014-15 season, UNH played against all of the teams that earned a berth in the 2015 Frozen Four except North Dakota. The Wildcats played Hockey East opponents BU and Providence during the regular season and in the Hockey East Playoffs. They also travelled to Omaha at the end of December to play two games against UNO. In all, UNH played 10 games against these three teams and compiled a record of 5-5-0.

Boston University

During the regular season, UNH was one of only seven teams to defeat Boston University. In a home-and-home series in mid-February, BU downed UNH 6-3 at the Agganis Arena and UNH beat BU 4-3 at the Whittemore Center. This video clip shows senior Jay Camper's game-winning goal, set up by freshman Warren Foegele:

Providence College

Providence played both regular season matchups at the Whittemore Center. The Friars downed UNH 1-0 on November 21st and the teams were scheduled to play the following evening. However, a problem with the ice making system resulted in a postponement. The game was played on January 13 and was freshman goalie Danny Tirone's first start at the Whittemore Center. UNH won 2-1 in yet another tightly contested match. Grayson Downing, the team's leading goal-scorer, potted both UNH goals. Here is Downing's game-winner:

Then came the dramatic quarterfinal playoff series with Providence down at the Schneider Arena. UNH won the first game 2-1 on a dramatic, overtime goal by Grayson Downing. PC evened the series with a 2-1 win of it's own. Then, UNH won the third and decisive game 2-1 in overtime. Once again, Jay Camper scored an important game-winning goal.

University of Nebraska-Omaha

In the first game against UNO on December 30th, UNH lost in overtime 2-1. The following night, New Year's Eve, the Wildcats exploded for 6 goals. Freshman Andrew Poturalski, Brett Pesce, Grayson Downing, Tyler Kelleher, Matias Cleland, and Matt Willows tallied the goals. It was Danny Tirone's first NCAA game and he got his first college win. Here's the game-winning goal scored by Grayson Downing in the second period:

Grayson Downing lead the team in goals with 21 including 4 game-winners. Matt Willows added 19 goals. The five UNH seniors combined for 50 goals. Junior defenseman Brett Pesce, who signed with the Carolina Hurricanes last week, added 3 goals. Sophomore Tyler Kelleher tallied 18 goals and freshman Andrew Poturalski scored 14. This year's underclassmen and the incoming freshmen will be called upon to replace the scoring production of those who have left the team. In an article published today in The New Hampshire, Tyler Kelleher expressed confidence that they will be able to reach that goal:
“We’re going to lose some of our top guys, but we definitely have a lot of talent on this team,” Kelleher said. “I think all of our guys are capable of stepping in for us. I really believe any of them could perform.”


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